The latest volume of Art & Home is here! This month, Iyna Bort Caruso showcases homes with captivating and architecturally significant staircases from around the world.
Staircases are among the oldest architectural elements, conceived in function and, in the most dramatic cases, elevated to an art object.
Their roles in literature and history are classic. Think the iconic staircase in Gone with the Wind, the red-carpeted staircase of the White House and the heart-shaped limestone staircase at Rosecliff, the great Gilded Age mansion in Newport, Rhode Island. Then there is the famed Tulip Stairs at the Queen’s House, the former royal villa in Greenwich, England. Its self-supporting spiral staircase reflects a brilliant harmony of mathematics and majesty.
“Staircases add value,” says Diletta Giorgolo Spinola of Italy Sotheby’s International Realty with offices in Florence, Rome, Milan and Como. “They are a status symbol. Throughout the ages, staircases have played an important role in giving a house a special style and elegance.”
Staircases define the character of a home and set the tone for the interior design to come. In estates of distinction they can be the unexpected focal point, expressing power by their twists and turns. They long ago stopped being simply an answer to an age-old challenge, getting from point A on one level to point B on another. They are a showcase of innovation and ingenuity.
Winding, curved, spiral, helical, flared, twin and seemingly gravity-defying are among the countless options and variations. Staircases are complex affairs. All parts need to interact structurally. Building codes ensure aesthetic considerations do not eclipse safety and functionality concerns.
While the evolution of technology has helped to turn staircases into architectural stars, they can function beyond visual showpieces. They can be experiential. Custom builder Ted Visnic of Visnic Homes in Rockville, Maryland, says some homeowners, for instance, ask that staircases be “tucked around a corner so you discover them, if you will.” Others request staircases be framed by a bank of windows to “wash the homeowners in natural light” as they ascend and descend the stairs, Visnic adds.
Shape, materials and finishes dictate pricing. One of Visnic’s current residential projects is an estate in which the staircase cost upwards of $120,000–not bad for a scene-stealing work of art.